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'El Chapo' defense rests after calling one witness

U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan released jurors after Tuesday's brief testimony from FBI agent Paul Roberts. Closing arguments will begin Wednesday in the trial of the alleged drug kingin in federal court in Brooklyn.

Alleged Mexican drug trafficker Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman

Alleged Mexican drug trafficker Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera is taken into custody on February 22, 2014. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images/RONALDO SCHEMIDT

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera’s lawyers rested the defense case in the alleged cocaine kingpin’s drug smuggling trial after calling just one witness on Tuesday, setting the stage for closing arguments in the 2 1/2 month trial to begin on Wednesday in Brooklyn federal court.

After prosecutors called 14 informants and 56 witnesses altogether, Guzman said Monday he wouldn’t take the stand himself and then called only an FBI agent to testify about purportedly contradictory statements by a Colombian cocaine supplier who testified against Guzman.

Following brief testimony from FBI agent Paul Roberts, who took notes during a debriefing of informant Jorge Cifuentes that differed from his trial testimony, U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan released jurors for the day, asking them to decide if they’re willing to sit on Friday, when the judge hopes to begin deliberations.

Guzman, 58, the alleged leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, is accused of using corruption and violence to smuggle $14 billion in cocaine into the United States. He is charged with operating a criminal enterprise, conspiracy, drug distribution, and firearms and money laundering violations.

The defense case — which also included a stipulation that another witness once said Guzman was in debt during one period when he was trafficking drugs — lasted barely 30 minutes, a stark contrast to the prosecution’s movie-like case that included stories about cocaine hidden in chili cans, brutal murders, submarines, Swiss anti-aging treatments and escapes in hidden tunnels.

In addition to the informants — including a mistress, pilots, guards, Colombian drug suppliers and U.S. distributors, and high-level cartel officials — prosecutors also introduced intercepted calls and texts from Guzman, some preserved by a spy system he used to track aides, rivals and lovers.

Defense lawyers have attacked the credibility of the informants, most of them facing U.S. charges and testifying in hopes of leniency, and have tried to sow suspicion that Guzman was unfairly targeted because of his high profile and a corrupt deal between his rivals, Mexican leaders and U.S. officials.

But in a filing this week, the government asked Cogan to bar any summation claiming that Guzman was selectively prosecuted. Despite testimony about massive official corruption, prosecutors said, there was no evidence the U.S. case was steered by Mexican officials bribed by Guzman’s drug competitors.

And even if there was, they said, it wouldn’t matter.

“This claim is highly prejudicial and incredibly misleading,” prosecutors told Cogan. “More significantly, it is completely irrelevant to the defendant’s guilt. The defendant is on trial, no one else.”

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